Aya is eleven years old and has just arrived in Britain with her mum and baby brother, seeking asylum from war in Syria.
Heartbreaking yet hopeful, No Ballet Shoes In Syria is a triumph of determination over despair, that is best read with tissues to hand.
Intertwining Aya’s past and present, we experience the struggles asylum seekers face in finding a safe refuge after escaping their war torn homes. Her desire to be seen in the same way, and behave like the child she once was, before her and her family’s lives were torn apart is clear to see as she watches the ballet class above the Community Centre, where her days are spent waiting to see the caseworker, translating for her mother, and looking after her baby brother.
The flashbacks to Allepo, and her family’s journey to England make for gripping, yet painful, reading. For me, what makes Aya a truly inspirational character is her unwavering empathy for others despite the turmoil she is still going through.
The strong supporting cast are beautifully written, with lessons from history cleverly woven in through her ballet teacher.
A truly wonderful book that really makes you stop and think about asylum seekers, refugees and media attitudes to them. Brilliant for class discussion to build understanding and empathy for displaced people who need our help, not hate.
You can read, or listen, to the opening chapter over at Nosy Crow.
Huge thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me a review copy. I can only apologise for taking so long!